Tonight’s Sherlock Special, The Abominable Bride takes us back in time to 1895. The show opens with Watson’s narration and flashback to his time in war, and quickly speeds through a re-creation of the contemporary scenes from Sherlock, episode 1: Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) whipping a dead body (more than ever); Watson (Martin Freeman) introduced to Sherlock by his old friend and a match is quickly made.
A woman in black stands at the center of the living room. She is covered completely from head to two, including her face, but she is soon revealed as Watson’s wife, Mary (Amanda Abbington) who feels the only way to see her husband is to get his attention at Baker Street, where he works with Sherlock.
“The stage is set, the curtain rises, we are ready to begin.”
I must say the mutton-chops adorned by Lestrade are quite shaggy and humorous. He drops by to wish them the “compliments of the season,” but of course he is there for other reasons. Lestrade is diagnosed by Watson as “afraid,” and the inspector retells the tale of a maniacal bride shouting “You!” as she fires a gun from each hand, face as pale as her gown, her mouth smudged with a deep crimson lipstick, and eventually fires the gun into her mouth. Her body is taken to the morgue. However, when the bride’s husband is on his way to the morgue, his deceased bride steps out of a carriage, her face draped in lace, holding a shot gun. She lifts the lace to reveal herself and fires two shots and he drops dead. Lestrade, Sherlock and Watson leave 221 Baker Street, and Mary, to embark on the case. Mary receives a secret note and tells Mrs. Hudson to tell her husband she’ll be home late. A call from Mycroft perhaps?
After the three men view the dead bride at the morgue, I am completely thrilled to see Molly (Louise Brealey) in drag, arrive to discuss the corpse bride. Banter ensues and Watson suggests the look-alike bride killer is a twin. However, Molly shows them blood on the dead woman’s finger, which was not there at the beginning of Molly’s autopsy. Molly also points out a blood-scrawled “you” written on the wall that was not there before. Molly is fantastically acerbic, and after an exchange with Watson, Sherlock’s sidekick throws in a quip: “What we have to do to get along in a man’s world,” suggesting Watson is aware of a hidden identity. But, could Watson’s statement perhaps foreshadow a greater conspiracy?
While Lestrade and Sherlock ‘solve’ the crime, they realize Watson is no longer with them, but in his home yelling at a female staff, who does not tolerate Watson’s unruly behavior. Watson receives a telegram from Sherlock. They go see “someone much smarter than [Sherlock].” After arriving at the Diogenes Club where they communicate in “absolute silence” which quickly turns into an Abbott and Costello routine, they see Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) who is surrounded by pastry. He asks Sherlock to take on a case.
Later back at 221, a woman, Louise, comes to Sherlock and Watson and in a flashback recounting her story, we see she and her family sitting at the table. Her husband, Eustis, opens an envelope containing orange pips. She laughs, but Eustis says it means death. Later that evening, he rises from bed: “She’s come for me, Louise.” Looking out their bedroom window onto a hedge maze, he claims to have seen the bride. The wife continues her story. She wakens to see her husband running outside. She enters the maze calling out trying to find him. She trips and falls and we catch a glimpse of the bride’s dress. Then her voice. Louise turns a corner and finds her husband staring at the bride, her face once again draped in lace. “She’s Emelia Ricoletti,” he says. The bride claims that he will die that night, and we are back for an interlude at Baker Street.
Sherlock and Watson take a train to Louise’ home to investigate the circumstances and sightings of Emelia Ricoletti. Eustis claims he was sleep-walking. Sherlock does not believe any of it, particularly Eustis’ statement that his wife is a “hysteric.” Sherlock asks the husband his connection to the Ricoletti case. Eustis says there is no connection. “The game is afoot!”
Sherlock and Watson plant themselves outside, wait for the husband and wife to go to bed. A light in each bedroom goes off. With time to kill, they talk about the “fairer sex,” including the picture of Irene Adler inside Sherlock’s watch. Watson tries to push Sherlock into discussing his non-emotional state, but disruption occurs when our detectives witness the bride appear in a bright golden light then fade into a tomb. Eustis screams and the detectives break into the house. Watson stays to guard the door they broke through and Sherlock follows the screams of Louise to discover Eustis is dead. Meanwhile, Watson hears the floor creak. He lights a candle not once, but twice and we see the bride roll up behind him, delivering a horrid whisper “Do not forget me.” This first episode is a fantastic ghost story that ‘reads’ like a penny dreadful, or perhaps even one of Watson’s popular stories published in “The Strand.”
When Inspector Lestrade shows up on the scene he says there’s a message on the body, which Sherlock claims was not there upon original discovery. He bends down to read the message, and what does it say, “Miss me?”
After a strange, but important scene between Mycroft and Sherlock, we learn that Sherlock has been meditating for two days. Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson peer in on him and Mrs Hudson tells Lestrade that Sherlock is “waiting for the devil.” And beneath the newspaper Sherlock reveals a hypodermic needle. Whether he injects himself is unknown, but Moriarty, the devil, is behind him. Eventually they face-off, gun to gun, but the game is more complicated than that. Is this a morphine dream? Or is Moriarty actually present? Moriarty reminds him that there’s something familiar about this case. The room periodically shakes. “I saw you die. Why aren’t you dead?” exclaims Sherlock. “It’s never the fall that kills you. It’s the landing,” replies Moriarty.
And suddenly we are on the plane, transported to the 21st century and Sherlock wakes from his mind palace. Mary, Watson an Mycroft meet him on the tarmac. It’s all quite clever. We also discover that Sherlock is a drug abuser. And then we’re back in 1895, where Watson is asking Sherlock, “Morphine or cocaine?” They argue, and a telegram arrives and they learn that Mary could be in danger. They leave 221 and make their way to a church where she may have placed herself in danger. Reality begins to shift as Watson’s appearance alters quickly between centuries. It turns out that Mary’s job for Mycroft was to make inquiries at this church where there appears to be some kind of cult ritual taking place. Women dressed in royal purple garbs with cone-shaped head-wear. Sherlock bangs on a gong and proceeds to solve the Ricoletti case. I won’t reveal the details to the solution, but we soon discover that the secret society is a group of suffragettes. And our favorite…. Molly Hooper steps forth , Watson’s female staff, followed by Sherlock’s date from Mary and Watson’s wedding. But is Adler among them? Or does the devil reveal himself once more?
Fast-forward to present day and the crew visits Emelia Ricoletti’s grave, Sherlock with shovel in hand. Sherlock, Lestrade and Mycroft stay behind, dig up the grave and upon opening the coffin, Ricolleti is discovered. The bride’s skeleton rises from the coffin whispering “Do not forget me,” Sherlock awakens from a dream and finds himself and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls!
Rain falls heavy. They battle at the edge of the precipice. “Shall we go over together?”
Oh, hello, Watson.
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride encore presentation on January 1oth. Don’t miss it! Keep your eyes peeled for wonderful tributes to past episodes, and original Sherlock stories by Holmes.
Favorite line:“I’m your landlady, not a plot device!”